Ex-RIM CEO Lazaridis to buy $50M in additional stock

Mike Lazaridis, who very recently stepped down as co-CEO, on new chief Thorsten Heins: "I absolutely know he will take this company to new heights."

Former Research in Motion co-CEO Mike Lazaridis still believes a comeback is in the works for BlackBerry and is willing to put his money where his mouth is.

Mike Laziridis
Mike Laziridis addresses the crowd at BlackBerry DevCon 2011. Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Lazaridis, who alongside fellow co-CEO Jim Balsillie stepped down from RIM a week ago , said in an interview posted Friday by The Record that he is confident in new CEO Thorsten Heins. In fact, Lazaridis is confident enough that he said he plans to buy $50 million worth of additional stock.

"I absolutely know he will take this company to new heights," Lazaridis said in the interview.

Lazaridis and Balsillie stepped down amid mounting shareholder pressure, with investors angered and concerned that RIM's stock had lost three-quarters of its value over the past year. Few on Wall Street are as confident as Lazaridis on Heins' ability to execute on a quick turnaround; RIM's stock lost another 8 percent of its value on Heins' first day on the job on concerns that he won't do enough to shake up the company.

Still, Lazaridis is giving Heins a strong vote of confidence with his commitment. Lazaridis, who is also among RIM's largest shareholders, still believes in the value of BlackBerrys.

"Would I be buying $50 million worth of shares if I didn't?" he asked.

Likewise, he is less concerned about competition than some of the company's other shareholders. Since Apple launched its iPhone and Google subsequently released its Android software, BlackBerry has been playing catch-up and has often well behind its rivals. Its next-generation BlackBerrys aren't expected to hit the market until late this year, presumably after another wave of Android smartphones and the next iPhone come out.

"We have always had competition," Lazaridis said.

Lazaridis said the decision to step down was a hard one. While he will run RIM's newly formed "innovation committee," he will not be involved with the day-to-day activities of the company.

"Stepping aside, as a founder, after 27 years, I would be lying if I said that wasn't emotional for me, and for my whole family," he said.

While the two co-CEOs had been facing calls for their removal, Lazaridis insisted that the transition to Heins was something the two had in the works for four years. Over the past few years, Heins had slowly taken on more responsibility at the company and proved he was the right person for the job, Lazaridis said.

"Bringing someone in from the outside would have been a guess," Lazaridis said. "That would have been like going back four years and saying, 'Well, we think he is a star but now he has to prove himself.' He has proven himself."

Lazaridis said his biggest regret while serving as co-CEO is not spending enough time with his family--something he hopes to rectify.

About the author

Roger Cheng is the executive editor in charge of breaking news for CNET News. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade. He's a devoted Trojan alum and Los Angeles Lakers fan.

 

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